SPINACH AND RICOTTA GNOCCHI RECIPE
NANCY HARMON JENKINS
Serves 6 - 8
PLEASE NOTE: We have not yet succeeded in making these gnocchi without flour. See GNOCCHI WITH SPINACH, RICOTTA AND FLOUR.
Elsewhere in Italy, these are known as gnocchi di spinaci e ricotta. In Florence, however, they're called strozzapreti, priest-stranglers, presumably because the priest ate so many of the delicious morsels that he strangled himself. In the rest of Tuscany, they are ignudi, or 'gnn di, nude ravioli, simply because they have no pasta "clothing" wrapped around the filling. They are usually dressed simply with melted butter and grated cheese, though sometimes a light tomato sauce is used instead. If you can't get a good, flavorful goat's or ewe's milk ricotta, boost the flavor with additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1/2 cup more should do it).The trick with 'gnudi is to drain the spinach very, very well, squeezing out the liquid, then to chop it very fine by hand and drain again; otherwise the mixture may be too liquid to handle easily.
- 2 lbs fresh spinach or two 10 oz. packages frozen spinach, (well drained)
- 1 lb fresh ricotta, drained overnight
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- Salt, freshly ground black pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg to taste
- 1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter
- Flour for the board
- Carefully stem and clean the spinach, washing it in several changes of water until not a trace of sand is left.
- Cook the spinach in the water clinging to its leaves in a large covered pot over medium heat until it is very tender.
- Drain it very well in a colander and chop it in the colander (if it's tender enough, you can chop it with the edge of a plate) to get rid of excess liquid.
- Press it in your hands to release even more of the liquid.
- Transfer the drained spinach to a cutting board and chop fine. (The spinach must be chopped by hand, not in a food processor, in order to rid it of as much liquid as possible.) Once it is chopped, squeeze it again between your palms to eliminate any remaining liquid. You should have about 2 1/4 cups finely chopped spinach.
- In a mixing bowl, gradually combine the spinach with the ricotta, 3/4 of the grated cheese, the eggs, and the seasonings, beating the mixture well with a wooden spoon after each addition.
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil.
- While the water is heating, melt the butter gently in a small saucepan; do not let it sizzle and fry.
- When the water is ready, form the 'gnudi.
- Shake a liberal quantity of flour over a bread board. Using two tablespoons, form a dollop of the ricotta-spinach mixture into an egg shape and roll it in the flour to coat it lightly.
- Toss each one between your lightly floured hands to shake off any excess flour and set aside on a lightly floured plate. (Don't make these ahead of time, as the damp dumplings will absorb the flour coating and you'll have to start all over again.)
- Drop the 'gnudi, a few at a time, in the pan of rapidly boiling water and cook briefly after the water returns to a boil. They will rise to the surface when they are done; let cook another 30 seconds or so on the surface and then remove with a slotted skimmer and set in a heated serving platter or oven dish.
- When all the dumplings have been cooked, pour the melted butter over them and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
- They may be served as is, or you can run the oven dish under a preheated broiler just to glaze the surface and melt the cheese.
Note: If you wish, you may clothe the naked gnocchi by making a sfoglia, a sheet of pasta, mixing together well 1 pound (3 to 4 cups) of unbleached all-purpose flour, 3 to 4 large eggs, about 1/2 cup of water, and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, as described in the recipe for Oven-baked Pasta. Roll the pasta dough out on a very lightly floured board, or put through a pasta machine, and cut into 3- to 4-inch disks with a glass. Place a dollop of the spinach-ricotta mixture in the center of each disk, fold over, and seal the edges with a fork. Cook in rapidly boiling, lightly salted water for about 6 or 7 minutes, drain, and serve with a sauce of melted butter in which a few sage leaves have been steeped.
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